Archive for the ‘Queens’ Category

The jet-age Airlines Terminal on 42nd Street

May 31, 2014

In the 1930s, the future of passenger air travel looked bright—if still out of reach for the average New Yorker (a NYC to Europe flight cost $375, or more than five grand in today’s cash!)

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To make flying more convenient, the city constructed the Airlines Terminal Building, an appropriately futuristic, Art Deco-inspired structure on 42nd Street in Midtown.

Here, passengers didn’t actually catch their flights but could pick up tickets for any airline serving New York.

Airlinesterminalbldg19501The idea was that “you could buy your ticket in town and ride in comfort on a dedicated bus to LaGuardia or Newark airports,” explains citynoise.org.

Of course, LaGuardia Airport wasn’t LaGuardia yet—in 1939, it opened as New York City Municipal Airport, where Pan Am, American, United, Eastern, and an outfit known as Transcontinental & Western Air, aka TWA, flew out of.

Located across the street from Grand Central, it was a wild building, with kind of a space age crown flanked by two eagles on top.

Airlinesterminalbldg1970s

The Airlines Terminal Building outlived its usefulness. It was bulldozed to make room for the headquarters for Phillip Morris, which has occupied the address since the early 1980s.

[Middle photo: MCNY collections; bottom: Citynoise.org]

The controversial royal Queens is named for

May 26, 2014

CatherineofBraganzayoungIn 1683, not long after England permanently took over New Netherlands from the Dutch, a round of renaming was in order.

The entire colony was rechristened New York, after the Duke of York.

And because the Duke of York was given control of the area by his brother, King Charles II, the Duke named Kings County for him.

Queens County reportedly was named for Charles’ wife, Catherine of Braganza.

Who was Catherine? A Portuguese-born royal who came with a huge dowry (crucial to cash-strapped England at the time) and trade rights to Portuguese-controlled colonies around the world, she was not widely loved in the UK.

QueensubwaysignOne one hand, she’s credited with introducing the fork, tea, and orange marmalade to her subjects.

But she was unable to produce an heir, and she was Catholic in a Protestant-ruled nation.

After her husband died, sick of being hassled by the new regime, Catherine soon returned to her home country and spent the rest of her life there.

NPG 597,Catherine of Braganza,studio of Jacob HuysmansShe stayed under the radar for more than three hundred years.

But her name popped back up in the 1980s when it was announced that a Portugal-backed, 35-foot bronze statue of her was to go up along the Queens waterfront at Hunters Point.

Politicians were on board; a sculptor brought in and casts made. By the 1990s, however, community groups rallied hard against the statue—because Catherine’s family had benefited from the 17th century slave trade.

Also, some historians questioned whether Catherine really was the woman who lent her title to the borough’s name.

CatherinestatuegolisbonBecause of the controversy, the sculpture project was nixed.

Catherine became such a lightning rod, even her portrait was removed from Queens Borough Hall.

Eventually, a smaller-scale model of Catherine, made from the original mold, was created. It now sits on the waterfront in Lisbon (right; via Golisbon.com).

A souvenir from the other New York World’s Fair

April 21, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair. There, New Yorkers were introduced to the touch tone phone, caught their first sight of the Unisphere to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and were able to view Michelangelo’s Pieta.

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Amid all the nostalgia for that fair, it’s worth remembering the century’s other New York World’s Fair. The 1939 version, also in Flushing Meadows, captured the imagination of the Depression-era city.

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This Art Deco souvenir matchbook features the fair’s logo: an image of the Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere, the iconic, futuristic buildings that helped make the fair seem so magical.

Both symbolized the promise of the Machine Age. Yet after the end of the fair, they were scrapped and used for armaments in World War II.

Wow, look at that pill box. No childproof safety features!

The Mets fan who parachuted into Shea Stadium

April 12, 2014

MichaelsergiostudiousmetsimusIt happened during the first inning of Game 6 of the World Series, in October 1986.

The Mets had taken the field; pitcher Bob Ojeda had just thrown the ball to catcher Gary Carter. The crowd of 55,000 at Shea was pumped and excited.

All of a sudden, something, or someone, came out of the sky. A man in a white jumpsuit with a parachute on his back glided into the infield.

He touched down carrying a homemade “Go Mets” banner. After scoring a high-five from Ron Darling and enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, he was escorted off the field by cops. Who was this rabid and fearless fan?

AP86102501051.jpgMichael Sergio was an actor in his 30s living in Midtown, who made the jump from a plane into the Queens nighttime sky to show his support, he told a New York Mets sports blog in 2011.

That night, he watched the Mets win the game at the police station. The next day, a judge released him on his own recognizance.

He later pleaded guilty to criminal trespassing and paid a $500 fine for his spectacular descent into Shea, which is preserved forever on YouTube.

Michaelsergionydailynews

Can you imagine if this happened today? Sergio would be tackled by stadium security and federal agents and be thrown in federal prison!

“Shea under the lights was the most beautiful sight imaginable, like a crystal-green pool,” Sergio told Sports Illustrated in a 1989 article about his famous jump, which foreshadowed an incredible game and series.

RIP Shea Stadium.

[Top photo: Studious Metsimus; middle: New York Post; bottom: New York Daily News]

1970s city store signs that burst with color

March 24, 2014

Treat yourself to a Monday morning explosion of old-school color—courtesy of these New York store signs that give off a very 1970s vibe.

Acepumpsign

Ace Pump got its start in 1936, and still deals in engineering supplies on superluxe 21st Street in Chelsea.

20thcenturygaragesign

I’ve always loved the 20th Century Garage sign, as well as its name, which must have sounded very modern at one time. It’s near Tudor City on East 48th Street. It looks like it was made before the 1970s, no?

Jeromefloristsign

Jerome Florist, on 96th Street and Madison Avenue, has been selling arrangements to Upper East Siders (and the area’s abundance of hospitals) since 1929.

Capitalelectronicssign

Once known as Capital Audio & Electronics, this Duane Street shop took the electronics out of its name, perhaps to sound less 1970s-ish.

Vernonavepharmacysign

Pharmacy signs like this one in Queens—no-frills, no brand names, with a neighborhood vibe—have mostly disappeared from city streets.

Pretty in pink houses all over New York City

February 6, 2014

With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, drugstores, elementary-school hallways, and chocolate shops are bursting with pink.

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But on the exteriors of some New York brownstones and walkups, pink rules year round.

Fuschia-pink, as in the case of this home in Chelsea. Kind of looks like its made out of bubblegum, no?

Pinkhouseeast12thstr

This modest walkup on East 12th Street features a more pastel shade.

Pink is an interesting choice for a house color, especially in a city known for homes dressed in reds, browns, whites, and blues.

Pinkhousesoho

Pink is warm, inviting, and soothing, like the hue of this Chelsea brownstone, above. It can be dramatic and playful too, and of course, pink symbolizes love.

PinkhuseLIC

This little 19th century structure, in Long Island City, sports a faded patchy pink. Check out more examples of New York’s cherry blossom–colored domiciles.

The visionary who created New York City

December 30, 2013

The name Andrew Haswell Green typically draws blank stares from today’s city residents, who are unfamiliar with his accomplishments helping to build the parks, museums, and zoos of 19th century New York—not to mention the consolidated city itself.

AndrewgreenIn the late 1850s, Green was a member of the Central Park Board of Commissioners, tasked with selecting the design for the new park.

It was Green who recognized the beauty and brilliance of Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Greensward Plan, with its woodsy and pastoral landscapes. He shepherded the plan, helping it become reality.

The New York Public Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, Central Park Zoo—give props to Green, now city comptroller, for these late 19th century achievements.

His 1868 proposal to consolidate the city, however, was a harder sell.

Nicknamed “Green’s Hobby,” the idea of combining Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other towns and cities along the city’s port barely gained traction.

Andrewgreencentralparkbench

But Green persisted. In 1890, the city council created a task force to look into the idea. By the middle of the decade, after much debate (and grumbling from Brooklynites), consolidation was approved; the new city was born on January 1, 1898.

Andrewgreenconsolidation1

Consolidation was an economic and practical success. But Green didn’t live long enough to see the results.

In 1903, while arriving at his home on Park Avenue, he was killed, ambushed by a gun-wielding man who mistook Green, then in his 80s, for someone else with the same last name.

The “father of New York City” was memorialized in Central Park with a bench bearing his name. He now also has a riverfront park named for him overlooking the East River at 60th Street.

[Middle photo: NYC Parks Department]

The green lanterns outside city police precincts

October 24, 2013

Policelights10thprecinctWhether the precinct house is old or new, all New York police stations should have two green lights flanking their entrance.

There’s a story explaining why, and it has to do with the first men who patrolled New Amsterdam in the 1650s.

Peter Stuyvesant established an eight-member “rattle watch” who were “paid a small sum to keep an eye on the growing, bustling town,” and look out for pirates, vagabonds, and robbers, according to one source.

PolicelightsninthprecinctThe rattle watchmen carried green lanterns over their shoulders on a pole, like a hobo stick, so residents could identify them in the dark, unlit streets.

“When the watchmen returned to the watch house after patrol, they hung their lantern on a hook by the front door to show people seeking the watchman that he was in the watch house,” states this NYPD recruiting website.

Policelightsqueens“Today, green lights are hung outside the entrances of police precincts as a symbol that the ‘watch’ is present and vigilant,” explains the NYPD site.

The top two photos show the relatively modern green lights of a Chelsea police house, on West 20th Street, and the Ninth Precinct on East Fifth Street in the East Village.

The loveliest old police lantern I’ve ever seen has to be the one outside the 108th Precinct in Hunters Point, Queens.

The facade of the station house is currently undergoing construction, so my photo (left) of the cast-iron, crica-1903 lantern doesn’t do it justice. Luckily Forgotten New York has a much better shot here. It’s a beauty!

The dinosaurs spotted on the Hudson River

July 29, 2013

Imagine that you happened to be near the Hudson River on a mild October day in 1963, and all of a sudden you notice a barge carrying five giant dinosaur models heading downriver.

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It must have been a charming and mysterious sight, so much so that news photographers rushed to snap pictures of the dinos and the crowds they attracted as the barge headed toward the Battery.

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What they were doing on the water quickly became clear: these models, created upstate, were on their way to the site of the World’s Fair in Queens.

Later, they were displayed as part of a dinosaur exhibit sponsored by Sinclair, the oil company with a dino for its logo.

SinclairdinolandUnless you count the ones in the Museum of Natural History, dinosaurs have not left any traces in New York City. Their fossils have never been found here.

The next best thing: mastodon remains. Between 1858 and 1925, the tusks, jaw, and teeth of the massive beasts that roamed the city 18,000 years ago have been uncovered in Queens and Manhattan.

[New photo: New York Daily News]

Two more obsolete East Side phone exchanges

May 2, 2013

I love this ad for Gnome Bakers, especially the tagline. How unusual could their bread and rolls have been? It comes from a 1973 New York Mets program.

Gnomebakersad

The best part is the old RE phone exchange, assigned to phone numbers from a part of the Upper East Side starting in 1930. It stood for Regent—perhaps the name of a landmark hotel or theater nearby?

A good place to look for old phone exchange signs around the city is near service elevators. This one was spotted in east midtown around 35th Street.

JUelevatoralarmphoneexchange

JU is either for Judson, in Manhattan, or Juniper, given to a stretch of Queens.

If we knew the name of the elevator company, we could figure out which one. But alas, no trace of the name could be found.


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